Extended timeframes to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan are cautiously welcomed, however the Labor Government should not immediately resort to buyback according to Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey.
In announcing an agreement with all but one Basin State Water Ministers, Federal Minister Tanya Plibersek described it as a win-win for all, saying there was something in it for both the Liberals and Nationals as well as the Greens.
“The problem is, we know from past experience there can still be losers from something sold as a win-win and the devil will be in the detail,” Senator Davey said.
“Despite today’s announcement the Basin Plan’s deadline will be extended and questions remain around funding, especially given not all States have signed up.
“Questions remain as to whether this is a real Murray Darling Basin Plan without Victoria, and we certainly sympathise with their caution in signing up.
“It is true I have been advocating for an extension to Basin Plan deadlines since the last election to give the States more time to deliver on key infrastructure projects and to allow better environmental outcomes without the need for buyback.
“The Labor Government is now saying they will deliver the extension, yet they also want buyback and that means there will definitely be losers unless it is scrupulously assessed.
“This is why, in 2012, then Water Minister Tony Burke wrote into the Basin plan that all projects under the 450GL must have neutral or positive economic impacts.
“It is also the reason, in 2018, all Basin Water Ministers signed an agreement for how to assess projects to ensure they had neutral or positive economic impacts to protect their respective Basin communities.
“And that is why the Liberals and Nationals stand by that agreement.”
Senator Davey said the Basin Plan must be about environmental outcomes, not arbitrary numbers on a page.
“If the Government wants to talk about how to deliver the Basin Plan with new ideas and new concepts that will improve our environmental resilience, the Coalition is willing to listen.
“We know that buybacks hurt Basin communities and have flow on impacts that will cost every Australian in the long run and this must be avoided at all costs,” she said.
Senator Davey said she would look closely at the legislative changes being proposed to assess where the winners and losers may be.